When I step back and look at the changes the Birds have made to the coaching staff, I love what they have done on the offfensive and defensive lines. The additions of veteran line coaches Howard Mudd and Jim Washburn is great and can’t be argued with.
Former Eagles players on the defensive coaching staff, assistant linebackers coach Mike Caldwell and assistant secondary coach Mike Zordich are still in place. Reid didn’t clearly say whether they will continue in their roles on the staff or be promoted. He did say that he wanted to get the defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo, in place before they looked to fill the linebacker and secondary coaching positions.
Caldwell has a great feel for the linebacker position. He played the game with his mind and had great instincts, which seems to translate in coaching. He’ll likely get the chance to grow more with Castillo at the helm, but I don’t think they’re going to make him the linebacker coach just yet. He’ll be a great help to Castillo as he transitions into his new job.
In the secondary, Zordich knows the safety position because like Caldwell he was player who played the game with his mind and knows a great deal about disguising coverages, reading formations and habits of the offense, as well as studying stats in preparation for a game. He had a great for the timing needed in blitzing from the safety spot.
He didn’t have great speed but he was able to make plays at the line of scrimmage and still not get beat deep. I think he’s one of the reasons that the Birds got quality play from rookie safeties, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman. He’ll be a great help for the safeties, but Zordich’s expertise is not at the cornerback position.
I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the number one problem the Eagles had on their defense was at the cornerback position. Yes the Birds had a Pro Bowler in Asante Samuel at one cornerback spot, but the right cornerback position killed them most of the season.
Doesn’t it say something very loud, that the play of Ellis Hobbs, Dimitri Patterson and Trevard Lindley declined as the season played out. Isn’t it reasonable that players would get better under good coaching. The Eagles don’t have anybody on their staff who has played the cornerback position or mastered the knowledge of the position.
I would love to see them hire Green Bay cornerback coach Joe Whitt Jr.. I would put Zordich over the safeties and Whitt Jr. over the corners.
Whitt Jr. has rookie free agent Sam Shields playing the cornerback position on a Pro Bowl level. He’s developed free agent cornerback Tramon Williams into a Pro Bowler. Whitt Jr. has to be given credit for the fact that these two young cornerbacks have picked off five passes and returned one of them for a touchdown in the three playoff games the Packers have played so far.
Whitt Jr. has developed them to the point where they can take Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson and have him cover the slot. They also leave them man-to-man on all receivers regardless of their speed.
I’m confident that Whitt Jr. will do the job with the cornerbacks but he’s only been a secondary coach for two years. They need somebody back there who has more experience at the same time, they are in desperate need of better coaching of the cornerbacks.
The secondary coach who Reid brings in here will be especially important. The NFL is a passing league. You can’t be a competent defensive coordinator unless you have mastered the defense of the passing game.
Just to begin with. Is Castillo a proponent man-to-man or zone? How does he feel about cover 2 or cover 2 man? Does he like his corners playing up and back? What type of coverages does he believe in the red zone? And what exactly was Sean McDermott doing wrong in the red zone?
In a thorough defensive coordinator interview, the questions would get a lot more specific and complicated and I would be shocked to believe Castillo could have mastered that area when his focus has been on blocking the front seven and picking up blitzes.
As much as I respect Castillo and his work ethic, nobody can tell me that he has mastered the complexities of the passing game. I don’t buy his line about coaching his son, who is playing in the secondary at the University of Iowa. The difference in pass coverage in the NFL and pass coverage in college is like the difference between addition and physics.
While coaching on the offensive line, Castillo hasn’t been working on a daily basis with the receivers and the secondary. This is a world of its own. There are specific techniques that Castillo doesn’t know like the back of his hands.
He’ll be fine in coaching the linebackers and the run stopping assignments, but he’s still learning pass defense. They’ve got to get a secondary coach who can run the pass defense, until Castillo gets up to speed. The candidate must come across as a master of the secondary and its coverages and techniques. They especially need help with their cornerbacks. Castillo isn’t a master of the man-to-man and zone techniques on the corner.
I love what they’re planning on doing on the defensive line. The idea of turning the Eagles defensive line loose to get off on the snap of the ball. They’re going to be attacking and assigned to get up the field. They play the run on the way to the quarterback. I could only imagine adding an Albert Haynesworth to that group and turning him loose.
This change should allow the defensive tackles to make more plays in the opponents’ backfield. Antonio Dixon, Brodrick Bunkley, and Mike Patterson will be able to turn it loose at the snap of the ball. Their main goal on each snap is to penetrate and get in the backfield by any means possible. The big fellas will love it.
I played a defense in Detroit with Al “Bubba” Baker, Doug English and a number of other good defensive players and we led the league against the run and were one of the best defenses in the NFL for a number of years. When I played for Buddy Ryan here in Philadelphia, he turned Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons and the rest of our defensive line loose to get off on the ball and attack. Our job as linebackers was to pick up on the scraps and force turnovers.
The defensive line would keep the offense off balance and reacting and we would come in and punish. All the time we were attacking we looking for turnovers. If you put pressure on the quarterbacks and punish them, they will turn the ball over.
I like the idea of relying on the front four primarily to pressure on the quarterback and attack the running game as well., but that secondary coach is the key.